Why did Churchill help King Abdullah

Deceptive stability in Jordan : The open dispute in the royal family is an alarm signal

No master of ceremonies had imagined the anniversary this way: just in time for the start of the celebrations to mark 100 years of existence of an independent entity on the territory of what is now Jordan, King Abdallah II and his half-brother Hamza have publicly warred, there is talk of a putsch and several high-ranking ones People were arrested.

The video that 41-year-old Hamza played this week to the British BBC via a satellite connection from his palace in Amman is dramatic: he and his young children are under house arrest, are not allowed to tweet or communicate, and his security guards have withdrawn. But he is not responsible "for the breakdown of governance, corruption, incompetence, which has been getting worse every year for 15, 20 years." For which he blames his half-brother, King Abdallah, who has been in power since 1999, and himself Deposed as Crown Prince in 2004.

Such a public exchange of blows and the massive action taken by the security forces against a member of the royal family are absolutely unique in the recent history of Jordan, which is loved and pampered by the West because of its stability in a politically extremely unstable region.

The West likes to look the other way when there is domestic political tension

But just in time for April 11th, which was declared a public holiday, the domestic political tensions have become public due to this fraternal dispute. This also reminds the West that supposed calm is not always to be confused with stability - a lesson that the West had actually learned after the uprisings and revolutions in the so-called Arab Spring.

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And in Jordan, which is always praised as a model country with a particular affinity for the West, the economic crisis and corruption are growing and are being responded to with stronger surveillance by the secret service and restrictions on freedom of expression. But the West prefers not to look again.

Jordan actually has every reason to celebrate. No one would have bet in 1921 that this strange geographic structure would survive long, by the grace of Great Britain. The borders drawn by the protectorate powers are too artificial - the curious jagged point in the border with Saudi Arabia is anecdotally explained with a hiccup by the British Prime Minister Churchill as he was just drawing the line with the ruler.

There are also borders with Israel and Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. No water, no mineral resources, almost all desert. Instead coups in neighboring countries, the founding of Israel, which led to the flight and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the other side of the Jordan. In 1967 Israel conquered the West Bank administered by Jordan, another 400,000 Palestinian refugees came and also the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which acted as a state within a state - which culminated in the civil war, known as Black September, in 1970/71. But that did not solve Jordan's identity problem.

The country must seize every opportunity for self-affirmation of its identity

It is understandable that Jordan seizes every opportunity to celebrate and to reassure itself of its national identity - even if April 11, 1921 was initially only the establishment of a consultative council for the British mandate Transjordan - it becomes the first “Arab” government under the Emir Abdullah celebrated. Amman was a sleepy village; despite his noble descent from the Prophet Mohammed, Abdullah first had to reside in the station building - the most representative building on site. On May 15, 1923, the emirate of Transjordan was recognized by the British as independent. In 1946 the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan became independent.

From 1952 (until 1999) the “little” King Hussein shaped the country, who managed the balancing act between tribal culture and the West relatively well. He laid the foundations for a modern Jordanian society and democratization through inclusion: The National Charter of 1989 guarantees freedom of the press and expression, free elections, opposition parties and trade unions

Jordan was considered a model country in the Orient

And so Jordan was rightly regarded as the western model country in the Orient. And the deal since then has been: The West is giving money and weapons - for this Jordan mediates in the region and takes in refugees of all wars from neighboring countries: Palestinians, Iraqis and for years hundreds of thousands of Syrians. A really admirable masterpiece of this small state. And he ensures peace on Israel's eastern border.

This deal with the West continues to work. But in Jordan itself, domestic politics are seething: the youth suffer from mass unemployment, feel excluded from the political process, corruption is increasing steadily. The lockdown in the corona pandemic was one of the toughest in the world. Political reforms are stagnating, freedom of expression is massively restricted: hundreds of websites have been blocked since 2013, journalists have been imprisoned, the vague anti-terror law is being used against journalists who are closely monitored by the secret service, and reporting on certain topics is more and more simply banned.

King Abdallah's Arabic was initially viewed critically

King Abdallah had a hard time following in the footsteps of his charismatic father from the start: he spoke poor Arabic and the entire nation feared or blasphemed the progress of their ruler in the national language. It was obvious that he felt at home in Western circles - he was never able to develop the same relationship with the important tribes as his father did. His marriage to the Palestinian Rania was analyzed as a politically happy alliance, but it did not go down well with everyone.

And this is where Hamza, the eldest son from King Hussein's fourth marriage, comes into play: Hamza was King Hussein's favorite son, whom he called "my feast for the eyes". However, he was still too young to succeed him and so, at the request of his father, he “only” became Crown Prince under his half-brother Abdallah. Until he withdrew the title in 2004 - in favor of his own son. Hamza is considered to be pious and humble and has a very good relationship with the tribes. Does it help him that he looks like the face of his still adored father Hussein?

In the end, the uncle conveyed: Hamza swore loyalty

In any case, Hamza has an open ear for the needs and the political reform demands in the country, openly sympathizes with them - his criticism of the situation in the video probably speaks from the hearts of many Jordanians. And if he wants to build on the role model function that Jordan has long had in the region, then he makes it unmistakably clear that he can better continue his father's work. This is dangerous for Abdallah, who was able to settle the crisis again thanks to the mediation of their mutual uncle Hassan: Hamza confessed his loyalty to the monarch.

It is understandable that the US, the West and the regimes in the region quickly expressed their solidarity with King Abdallah (only Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was silent) - Jordan must remain calm. But since the Arab Spring, the West has actually known that calm should not be confused with political stability.

The unusual public dispute in the royal family has made the domestic political tensions in the country visible worldwide. Behind the scenes, the large amount of economic aid must therefore be combined with demands to continue the political reforms initiated in 2011/12, such as decentralization or proportional voting rights for parliamentary elections, and to create economic improvements. Otherwise the young Jordanians could catch up on their “Arab Spring” one day.

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